episode 25. The Lap that Cradles Civilization: Women and Ayurvedic Medicine

Would you consider yourself a fiery person? Grounded? Dynamic? Maybe a combination of the three? If you looked at your health from the perspective of Ayurvedic medicine, it would probably be some combination of the three with one aspect being dominant. And this combination would be unique to you! But it would also have an impact on the way you receive medical care. Join us this week as we discuss the practice of Ayurveda, a form of medicine that originates in the Indian subcontinent and is still practiced today. Learn about its history, principles and of course, the way it impacts women. It’ll be a journey you won’t want to miss!

Feminist Corner:

Which dosha do you think you would be dominant in?

How does ayurveda differ from other homeopathic practices and how is it similar?

How does ayurvedic medicine and the ways it was used to understand women differ from how maybe American or Western medicine understands the biologically female body?

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

Ayurveda is originally a practice of medicine from the Indian subcontinent. It is a sanskrit word where ayur means life and veda means science or knowledge. So the word ayurveda translates to knowledge of life

In terms of its history, it’s said that the Hindu god Brahma created ayurveda. Brahma is the Creator. He is one of three gods, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu, the Creator, Destroyer and Preserver–the Holy Trinity of Hinduism. 

Over the years the knowledge of ayurveda was passed down from teacher to student orally for thousands of years and eventually recorded in the holy book called The Vedas, which are essentially sacred scriptures. There are four bodies of the veda all written in sanskrit, and ancient Indian language.

The Vedas are the world’s oldest form of literature. Other ayurvedic texts that are notable but the one that I’ve heard of that I just thought I’d mention here is called the Sushruta Samhita. It’s a book that explains the concept and practice of surgery and it has 184 chapters, presents 1,120 health conditions, 300 different operations that require 42 surgical procedures, 121 different instruments and 650 kinds of medicine from animals, plants and minerals. 

There are 8 branches of ayurveda which can help determine how to prevent and cure diseases in the specific areas that disease is occuring in. They are internal medicine, treatment of children, eyes, ears, nose and throat, surgery, toxicology, psych, toxicology, geriatrics and reproductive health.

There are three forces that are fundamental to the concept of ayurveda: they were vata, pitta, and kapha. Together, these three concepts are known as dosha and they’re thought to circulate through the body and control the body’s function. Each dosha has different main characteristics that define it. Vata is mobile and dynamic, pitta is fiery, kapha is grounded. 

And the idea is that a person’s mood and personality is based on the combination of how much of each dosha a person has. When a person’s doshas are out of balance, it’s called vikruti. And this can manifest as physiological and behavioral symptoms.

In ayurveda, the woman is considered to be “shakti”, who is the mother and source of creation, and in whose lap all of civilization is cradled. Women with different dominant doshas respond differently to certain triggers. 

Example: if a pitta-dominant woman were to eat a lot of hot, spicy and acidic foods while doing activities that also activate her pitta energy like being in the sun or getting angry, she will aggravate the pitta in her blood and potentially cause excessive bleeding during her period. 

There is an impact of colonization on ayurvedic medicine and the way it affected women, as well as various treatments meant just for women and times of their lives such as menopause, menarche, etc.



Ayurveda. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/ayurveda

Ayurvedic Medicine: History and Principles. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://www.copperh2o.com/blogs/blog/ayurvedic-medicine-origin-history-and-principles

A glimpse of Ayurveda – The forgotten history and principles of Indian traditional medicine. (2017, January 1). Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198827/

Gupta, C. (2005). Procreation and Pleasure. Studies in History, 21(1), 17–44. https://doi.org/10.1177/025764300502100102

gynoveda.com. (2021, January 25). Ayurvedic perspective on women’s health. Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://gynoveda.com/blogs/news/ayurvedic-perspective-on-women-s-health

Lallanilla, M. (2015, January 7). Ayurveda: Facts About Ayurvedic Medicine. Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://www.livescience.com/42153-ayurveda.html

SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class research journals. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://journals.sagepub.com/action/cookieAbsent

Times of India. (2019, August 21). Ayurveda treatments: Herbs for women’s health – Times of India. Retrieved July 20, 2021, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/home-remedies/ayurveda-treatments-herbs-for-womens-health/articleshow/20200285.cms

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